10 Ways to Get the Benefits of Meditation Without Meditating.
Photo Credit: Savoring the beauty of her labor by PeopleImages
Your purpose—the fullness of life—is just to be here now. To be the space for whatever happens. Try to do that often throughout the day. The length of time doesn’t matter. Always choose now.Eckhart Tolle, author and spiritual teacher.
Maybe, for whatever reason, a consistent daily meditation practice is not in the cards for you.
Perhaps it takes all the self-discipline you can muster to go for your morning run or get to the gym or even gulp down your morning coffee.
And yet, by letting go of meditation, there are some significant benefits you may be leaving on the table. You may want to improve your concentration and focus. Or reduce your stress and anxiety. Maybe you could use a sense of calm and clarity.
While I highly recommend incorporating a regular meditation practice into your life, meditation is not the only way to train your attention and get the benefits of mindfulness.
If you’d rather visit your dentist than meditate for 10 minutes a day, here are 10 ways you can enjoy improved self-awareness, improved focus and attention, and mindfulness without sitting on a cushion.
1. Mindful exercise.
If you already exercise regularly, you can double up on the benefits by applying mindfulness to your exercise routine. For example, try leaving your earbuds at home when you go for your morning run. Engage your senses and direct your attention on how your body responds. Notice the sound of your breathing, the sensation of air against your skin, feel your muscles working. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your present moment experience without judgement.
2. Mindful transitions.
We perform dozens of transitions every day. We move from one task to the next, go to the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, drive to the office or log onto Zoom. Each one of these transitions is an opportunity for mindfulness practice. Use your transitions as a cue to bring your attention to the present moment. Try to stay present to the entire transition, paying careful attention to what is happening in the present moment.
3. Expensive Food Meditation.
In his book, Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan tells the story of eating at an expensive Chinese restaurant when he was a child. He remembers how he savored every morsel. It occurred to him that he could treat every meal like an expensive meal. You can too. Bring your full attention to your food as you eat it. Experience and savor every bite.
4. Mindful showering.
Here’s a challenge for you. See if you can take a full shower and keep your attention on the present moment. I’ve been practicing this for at least five years, and I can tell you, I have not been successful once. But I’ve improved. It’s good practice. One caution, however. Do not try this if you rely on your morning shower for your best ideas. Those eureka moments arrive when you let your mind wander.
5. Breathing Breaks.
The breath is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and stress and bringing you back to a state of calm clarity. Whenever you notice you feel rushed, anxious or stressed, pause and take three to five slow deep breaths. Feel your heart rate come down and a sense of calm come over you. Use feelings of stress as a cue to pause and breathe.
6. Mind-body practices.
Yoga, Tai-chi, Qigong are all mind-body practices you can use to improve your present moment attention and focus. They work with both movement and breath. For people who have difficulty with sitting meditation, these are invaluable daily mindfulness practices that benefit both your mind and body.
7. Mindful listening.
Listening is a form of mindfulness practice which not only trains attention but can transform relationships. Listening is so essential to effective leadership that it is one of the first skills my colleagues and I introduce in Fire Inside’s Peer Leadership Program. We train leaders in three types of listening, each requiring and training a different type of attention.
- Internal listening, where you bring your conscious attention to your inner state and inner dialogue.
- Focused listening, where you bring your attention to another with deep focus and presence.
- Global listening is an open awareness, like using a wide-angle lens on a camera. In global listening, you bring your attention to the group or the wider environment listening to content and sensing the group energy, and dynamics.
8. Mindful Conversation.
Mindful conversation is a mindfulness practice you can do with a friend or colleague. So much of what we call conversation these days is not really conversation at all – it’s debate, or argument, or even verbal abuse. You can tell a true conversation when there is spaciousness, safety, and deep listening. You leave feeling you’ve deepened your understanding and you’ve been heard. There is no winning or losing, simply greater understanding and a sense of satisfaction. There are both formal and informal ways to practice mindful conversation.
You can practice mindfulness while listening to a piece of music. During the pandemic, I was introduced to Clemency Burton-Hill’s, Year of Wonder. For every day of the year, Hill features a piece of classical music and offers a one to 3-page story about each selection. You can download these selections by searching for Year of Wonder on i-Tunes or Spotify. Listening to classical instrumental music is an ideal mindfulness practice because of its rich complexity and intricacy. It has improved my attention and lifted my soul. That said, you could say the same for jazz, blues or pretty much any kind of music.
10. Mindful Walking.
There are few things more uplifting than a mindful walk in the great outdoors. I stick in my earbuds, crank up one of my favorite podcasts and the next thing you know, I’m back in my apartment and I don’t remember how I got there.
Wait a minute! There’s another way.
Sometimes it’s great to leave the earbuds behind and open yourself to the full experience of an afternoon walk. Paying attention with all your senses and communing with nature can be healing, uplifting, and good training for your mind.
If there’s a takeaway here, it is that every moment of your life is an opportunity to practice, to be mindful and awake. By tending to the moments as they arise, you open yourself to experience the miraculous gift of your life more fully.
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